Cohen Davies begins his story from a prison cell where he’s been locked up for the last 3 months. As he serves his 6 month sentence, we get glimpses of the whole story, at every little thing that might have lead him there. First, we jump back several years to what seems like the beginning: a weekend family trip to a cabin. A seemingly innocent event, until the accidental drowning of Cohen’s brother shocks the family. It is around this time when Cohen meets Allie. A photographer and PH.D student living with her father after her mother’s death from cancer. It isn’t long until Cohen and Allie become the best two things to happen to one another. But, as we come to learn at every corner of Chad Pelley’s novel, it is never that simple.
Every Little Thing by Chad Pelley is, in essence, a boy-meets-girl story but one that has been stripped of most feel-good Hollywood sensibilities. The clumsy-loveable-cheesy anecdotes that often infect a romcom are instead replaced by tragic events and situations in which Cohen becomes a pretty serious victim of circumstance. After years together and happily integrating into each other’s families, Cohen and Allie seem like their headed for the long haul. Until a kept secret wedges itself between them, forcing space and causing disconnect.
It took a little while to get fully into this novel. At the start, I wasn’t sure where the crutch of the story rested. But what was sometimes slowed down by heavy metaphors was quickened again by sharp, poignant dialogue. And Pelley’s exploration of these terribly flawed characters felt intimately real. He built them up so that they really get under your skin. Hitting it’s stride, I powered through 3 quarters of the novel stopping only to give myself a break from the sunburn I was subjecting myself to. I was seriously frustrated after finishing Every Little Thing in the same way I get frustrated at life. I kept thinking It’s not fair! over and over in my head, which just goes to show you how Pelley has skillfully grasped the crazy complicated nature of love. Novels really should provoke reactions from their readers. It’s our reason for reading. This just happens to be a story that doesn’t serve up like a piece of angel cake. Though the momentum of the novel faltered near the end, I really liked Cohen and Allie and it was heartbreaking to see them ravel and unravel. And not an ordinary unraveling either, but one that literally caused casualties in it’s wake. The complexity of Cohen and Allie’s relationship is sometimes at the forefront and sometimes the background of Pelley’s novel, all the whims and wishes and regrets involved in their relationship (and the relationships that stem from it) show a very layered look at how someone’s small actions can change the course of a life. Though I just wanted them to WORK THIER SHIT OUT for the sake of my own selfish emotions, that wouldn’t make a very interesting story now would it? And Every Little Thing is anything but boring.